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May 2, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Newest Christian Concern: Court-Martials for Evangelism

Last week, we heard that the Army was blocking websites due to theological or cultural differences (which has now been debunked). Yet, so many Christians were quick to believe a false report. Again.

As I wrote:

Too often, Christians are in a state of perpetual grievance, where each passing day brings another new controversy about which we must act or else Christianity in America will crumble.

When we hear a story about government attacks on Christians and we disagree with the politics of those in power, we assume the worst about the individuals in the military and our government. We live out the exact opposite of James 1:19. We are slow to listen, not giving time for all the facts to come out. We are quick to speak, gullibly forwarding the emails, retweeting the links and sharing the Facebook photos.

We are quick to anger, behaving as if every rumor deserved our righteous indignation and called for temple tables to be overturned (at least on Facebook).

Court-martialing Soldiers for Evangelism?

Then, Breitbart reported that the Pentagon is going to court-martial people for sharing their faith. (By the way, Todd Starnes, the source of the oft-repeated quotes, tweeted about how Breitbart re-edited the quotes from his Fox News story here.)

Then, Christian media exploded. Facebook lit up. Twitter screamed. Again.

Soon, people upset at my last article were sending me messages on Twitter and on Facebook because, well, I guess, they were mad that they fell for the last false report. But, now they have this one and, look, this PROVES they were right all along.

But, really?

Did you really think that the military was going to arrest soldiers for sharing their faith with a friend? (That's what was showing up in my social media feeds.)

More Facts

As Bob Smietana now reports (and Christianity Today reports on Bob's report):

Members of the military are free to share their faith as long as they don't harrass others, the Department of Defense said in a statement today.

A Pentagon ban on proselytzing had caused an uproar in social media this week. Conservative activists claimed that service members could face court martial for talking about Jesus.

But a Defense Department spokesman said that evangelizing is allowed, as long as it is not disruptive.

"Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, in an email.

What Does it Mean?

I hope you agree that no one should "force unwanted, intrusive" conversion attempts.

Now, I know that people who think they are being persecuted can see loopholes in that statement, but that is about what every employee handbook in America says on the subject. And, you can get fired for such "unwanted, intrusive" evangelism in corporate America.

Also, the military needs a much clearer definition of "proselytization," since they seem to believe it involves coercion, which makes my Christianity Today story in favor of proselytization appear quite sinister!

Distracting from Real Issues

Again, protests and petitions on bad facts distract from very real issues.

I've had the privilege of training Navy chaplains and most recently spoke at the Chief of Chaplains Strategic Planning Retreat. I was welcomed-- and evangelicals are welcome there. But there are indeed real issues and concerns about where the military is heading-- though they will be obscured by this misdirection.

For example, let me say that the Army does not need to be working with Mickey Weinstein, though I imagine they see that now.

Also, there are real issues about the implementation about of new directives regarding homosexuality among the chaplain corps and beyond.

However, once again, a false alarm distracts us from real issues in our culture and how they impact the military.

Those real issues concern me and they should concern you.


Perhaps this will be a reminder to the Obama administration and to military leaders that they need to do more to be clear on their views and protect the views of evangelical chaplains and servicemen and women as our culture is shifting.

In addition, perhaps this is a reminder to many Christians that waiting a few days before expressing outrage (particularly when something just seems so odd) is not always a bad thing.

Please join me in praying for our culture, government, and our servicemen and women.

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